The heating oil industry has a place to call home in New York.
The New York Oil Heating Association, the Oil Heat Comfort Corp. and the National Oilheat Research Alliance held an open house last month for their new shared facility in Plainview, NY.
For the two New York associations, it is known as the NYOHA/OHCC Technical Training Institute. For NORA it is the NORA Liquid Fuels Research and Development Laboratory. By any name, it is a spacious, pristine facility where industry participants can gather for training and research.
Renowned energy researcher Dr. Thomas A. Butcher keeps an office at the facility, where he will oversee NORA’s research and development projects while also conducting research on heating equipment and liquid fuels.
One door over from Butcher sits John Levey, who serves as Director of Education for each of the associations that share the facility. He is developing and directing a variety of education programs, including Oilheat technician training under the aegis of NORA and a variety of training programs for the New York associations, including air conditioning education for technicians and customer service training for office personnel.
The facility also houses a classroom, a heating equipment laboratory, a fuels laboratory and a boardroom.
NORA President John Huber said, “It is really exciting to have a bricks-and-mortar presence of our own that we can all use together. This gives us a great opportunity to connect with people working in the industry and help them serve heating oil customers more effectively.”
NORA Chairperson Allison Heaney, who is President of New York City-based Skaggs-Walsh, said the center will benefit the industry tremendously. “It is very exciting to have a research facility where Dr. Tom Butcher can continue with his great testing of Bioheat® and continue to assure that we are selling fuel of the highest quality,” she said. “I also think it is amazing that both Long Island and New York City now have this space where we can bring our technicians together and train them to deliver even better service for our customers. It’s a beautiful facility with boilers ready to fire that will allow students to work hands-on with the equipment. I’m very excited to have it.”
Dr. Butcher In Action
Butcher also expressed great enthusiasm about the opportunities that the new facility creates. “I think this is hugely important. Many groups can now come to this place and share their education and research,” he said. “We will really help each other. My hope is that the place is busy all the time.”
Butcher and his colleagues at Brookhaven National Laboratory have done extensive research and testing of liquid fuels and oil-fired heating equipment through the years. Their work has helped drive the acceptance of biodiesel blends (Bioheat® Fuel), improve equipment performance, and create tools for testing and demonstrating system efficiency.
Now working directly for NORA and based at the new Liquid Fuels Research and Development Laboratory, Butcher is already setting up a new experiment. He is testing the performance of tankless coil water heaters as part of a paid project for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). He is programming the water heaters to operate the way they do in the real world – with heavy activity in the mornings and evenings sandwiched around idle time in the middle of the day – to evaluate now effectively they use and conserve energy. The fact that NORA is able to perform testing on behalf of a client such as NYSERDA reflects the capabilities that the new facility brings to the Alliance and Oilheat, Butcher noted.
He runs the heating equipment lab, which is already set up with a couple of boilers and has more equipment on the way. He has set up a computer workstation in the lab where heating equipment can be connected to an electronic data acquisition unit that records system data for analysis.
The education and training programs run by NORA, NYOHA and OHCC will bring lots of technicians and other Oilheat employees to the building. Levey recently launched an 80-hour Oilheat technician training course where participants can gain a broad base of Oilheat knowledge and earn a NORA Bronze certificate. The course uses expert instructors for different modules so that students can benefit from specialized knowledge within each discipline. The instructors include Levey, Wayne Lawrence (Petro), Tom Olsen (Home Energy Long Island), Eugene Silberstein (author and certified Master HVACR Instructor), Matt Spink (Bain Mechanical Services), Charlie Masone (Beckett), Dave Holdorf (Taco), Kevin Huber (Riello), Angel Gonzalez (Carlin) and Chet Blyman (General Utilities). With NORA funding, the course is open to employees from all Oilheat companies, regardless of whether they belong to a regional trade association.
The Center will also offer NORA Silver and NORA Gold training, as well as NORA Gold “Train the Trainer” courses. “Oilheat now has its own center, where we can offer training whenever we want,” Levey said.
Instructor Wayne Lawrence, who works as Lead Technician at Petro, is helping the center by building custom training tools, including a fuel unit trainer that helps students understand burner operation by demonstrating how adjustments to pressure and other variables affect performance in the nozzle, fuel pump and other components. He has also constructed a static pressure demonstration unit that features three burners mounted together on a hand truck, where students can easily observe the static pressure capabilities of different burners.
OHCC CEO Kevin Rooney says the Education Center will deliver tremendous benefits for heating oil companies and employees. “For the first time, we have a research and development facility that is linked to a training facility. Technicians who come here not only will be able to work with the latest heating equipment in the field, they’ll also have the benefit of working with the pre-eminent technical expert in our field in Dr. Thomas Butcher.”
NYOHA CEO Rocco Lacertosa said the new facility gives the industry great credibility with young technicians. “It a professional environment that reflects very well on our industry. Training is very important for technicians and companies, and now we have a great place to get together and learn.”
Guests at the grand opening ceremony were impressed with the new facility. Raymond Hart, President of Hart Home Comfort, said, “It’s great to have Dr. Tom Butcher on board with us at this facility with more time to dedicate to our industry. It’s also important to have such a clean facility that reflects so well on the industry. It’s great for people coming into the industry who might not understand how great our equipment looks when you maintain it properly and use the clean fuel we have available today. It’s also great for us to be able to test fuel locally instead of having to send out samples.”
Hart is also excited with the education programs that Levey is rolling out for NORA and the New York-based associations. “They are putting on great training programs, and this lab gives us a place where we can get off-site in a facility that is designed for our training needs,” Hart said.
Daniel Falcone, Northeast Wholesale Manager for REG Marketing and Logistics Group LLC, believes the NORA lab will benefit Bioheat marketers in New York and beyond. “The new lab will help to validate the fuels being used and help ensure quality,” he said. “This is particularly important with the increased use of biodiesel in blends. It can coordinate with companies on fuel quality issues and give some accountability and understanding about what is actually in the fuel.”